While there's precedent for much of the humor in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the Canto Bight scenes feel dangerously close to the tone of the prequels and not deserving of the new tone J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson have constructed.
With the rise of fandom and the hyping of expectations greeting any new entry into a canon, fans of pop culture are more scrutinizing than ever. And when it comes to the Star Wars universe, it's impossible to unify opinion when it comes to any addition to the established franchise; despite the rapturous critical and fan praise The Force Awakens and Rogue One received, there were plenty of die-hard Star Wars fans who weren't just displeased, but downright furious about the films. TV shows, comics, and books in the new canon have received less backlash, but it still lurks in the darkest corner of comment threads and tweet-storms.
Though this wave of displeasure was born long beforehand, the prequels certainly helped kick off the movement thanks to their arrival at a point when the Internet was blossoming. But while Episode I–III enjoyed near-universal derision for years, opinion has begun to change somewhat as a generation raised on the movies find more connection to them than the original trilogy.
Generally, the consensus remains that the prequels lost the spirit of the first three films by placing kid-friendly humor, abundant visual effects, and convoluted political discussions over adventure and character development. The Clone Wars helped redeem much of the socio-political stumbling, but the films are still difficult to watch with their wooden dialogue and cartoonish antics.
Almost fitting of that legacy, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the subject of much debate. There's a lot of topics flying about, but the scenes in Canto Bight seem to be one of the key parts of the film that nearly all audiences and critics have disliked. And when looking for reasons why the tangential casino trip feels so out of place, it's hard not to draw comparisons to the worst parts of the prequels.
Canto Bight Makes Little Plot Sense
While the main thrust of Star Wars: The Last Jedi revolves around Rey learning the ways of the Force from Luke while she and Kylo struggle with their nature and mentors, it's harder to pin down what's happening in the rest of the movie until it's all said and done. On paper, the remnants of the Resistance are on the run from the First Order, desperately attempting one gamble after another to escape the encroaching Dreadnoughts as they get dangerously low on film.
From the perspective of Leia and Admiral Holdo, much of this narrative makes sense as the stakes rise and the leaders struggle to get their people to an outpost on Crait for a final showdown. But returning characters Poe and Finn, alongside new addition Rose, get handed a series of roundabout and ultimately pointless plots.
An analysis of Poe's series of terrible decisions is another issue entirely, but buried in the moot plot is much of Finn and Rose's arc in the movie. While the plan to sneak about a First Order ship and disable their tracking seems like a straightforward enough subplot and adventure, Johnson first sends the two off on an errand to Canto Bight. The idea was to bring in the roguish DJ (played by Benicio Del Toro), but it's hard to judge whether the entire jaunt was worth it. DJ doesn't add much to the plot or enjoyment of the film, and he certainly could have been brought on board in a less complicated way. Instead, a good portion of the film - and much of Finn and Rose's screentime - is devoted a series over increasing spectacles.
Canto Bight Feels Like A Prequel Location and Sequence
The Star Wars universe has always been a grimy, well-worn looking place, which is part of what initially turned people off from the prequels. From the gleaming CGI surfaces to the uncanny valley of digital aliens to the gaudy costumes and sets, the aesthetic of Episodes I-III felt far removed from the original trilogy. For Lucas, the attempt was to show how things were before the fall of the Republic, though it's undeniable given his track that he was a bit drunk on the power of CGI. More than just feeling off, the look of the prequels mirrored the overuse of slapstick and cheap gags to make the films far more adolescent than previous entries.
All of this was also at the expense of character development and the majesty of the A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and to a certain extent Return of the Jedi (though the seeds of the prequels are certainly planted in the latter film). It's because of this that J.J. Abrams worked so hard to honor the original movies when he made The Force Awakens, down to shooting on film and building as many of the aliens, sets, and vehicles as possible. The result looked and felt very much like a classic Star Wars film, and both Rogue One and The Last Jedi attempted to follow through on the same ideas.
Sadly, nearly every moment in Canto Bight feels like an unfortunate retread of the prequels. There are hordes of CGI aliens (all delivering goofy gags), every surface is gold and gleaming, and there's a prolonged chase sequence involving fathiers that ultimately leads nowhere. Even the instances of practical effects and characters get overshadowed by flying coins and silly voices. And while the scenes allow for some discussions of class in the Star Wars universe, much of the character work and commentary is lost amidst zany antics.
It's not hard to imagine how some streamlining could have delivered the same story beats and message without all the prequel trappings (indeed, originally the scene was going to be a very different beast), and it's not clear whether the choices were Johnson's, Lucasfilm's, or both. Everyone's mileage when it comes to the new tone of Star Wars: The Last Jedi will vary, but it's clear that the Canto Bight fans were delivered was better left on the cutting room floor.
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019